That Tug

Have you ever had an experience which causes you to reflect on life? I had one this week.  I was delivering fliers about our Parkinson’s group to a local medical office. Someone had suggested that I also drop some off at ‘His Hands’, a local free medical clinic. I had never been there, so I looked up the website on my phone and hit GPS directions.

The clinic was only a block or so away from where I was. I pulled in front of the small building and walked in. The office had a slight odd odor of dirty clothes. There was one patient sitting in the small waiting room.  I looked at the older man in his well worn clothes and immediately thought he might be homeless. I smiled at him and he smiled back with an almost toothless grin. Something tugged at my heart.

The receptionist was talking on the phone, but she smiled to acknowledge me. As I stood waiting, I heard her side of the conversation. I heard her verify with the person on the other end that they had health insurance but had a very high deductible. Yes, the clinic could help. I looked around at the small, simple, but clean office. Something tugged at my heart again.

A pleasant woman came through a door behind the front desk and asked if I needed help. I explained who I was and about the free programs for people with PD in the area as I handed her the fliers. She thanked me, said she would put some out in the waiting room and give some to the doctors to hand out. I thanked her and walked out to my car.

As I got back in the car, I looked again at the small building. It was a simple white building, nothing like the previous medical facility that I just came from with its large glass windows, spacious offices, and beautiful art on the walls.  I felt that same tug at my heart. This time tears came to my eyes. As I drove away, it hit me. “If not for the grace of God”.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs are or aren’t, we are one tragedy or bad decision away from needing services such as those provided by His Hands. I could be the homeless person in the waiting room if I had become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or had a mental illness that controlled my decisions. I could be there after being diagnosed with a disease or a became the victim of an accident that left me with medical bills that bankrupted me. I could be there if my child had been born with a condition that required expensive medical treatments.

We don’t like to think about the “what ifs”, but perhaps sometimes we should. It might give us a little more compassion towards those who are struggling. Maybe we wouldn’t see the man or woman on the street corner as a “bum”, but as someone who fell on hard times due to a drug or alcohol problem, or a mental illness. Maybe we wouldn’t stereotype the single mom who relies on Medicaid and Food Stamps to care for her family. Maybe we could empathize with the immigrant family who are just trying to find a better life for their children than what they fled. Maybe we could imagine what it would be like to be a veteran coming home to a different world that he or she is having trouble adjusting to.

Maybe, just maybe, we could all feel that tug in our hearts. That tug is called compassion. We all need to feel it.

Are Body Positivity and Fitness Compatible? — BEAUTY REDEFINED

If you want to improve your body image, but you have trouble prioritizing regular exercise … join the club! Lexie and I (BR co-directors) decided this week to renew our dedication to fitness. Not the “getting a bikini body” or “get your body back” kind of fitness, but the improving strength and capability and “using our bodies as…

via Are Body Positivity and Fitness Compatible? — BEAUTY REDEFINED

We Can’t Unsee Your Ugliness Dani Mathers…Here’s Why

http://uproxx.com/webculture/playboy-model-body-shaming-woman-gym/

Although I’ve been ranting about this woman, Dani Mathers, and her actions, which hopefully will result in charges, on my personal Facebook page, I have to share my thoughts here as well.

This is NEVER ok. I don’t care if she claims she meant to just send it to a friend. Mean girls like Dani don’t understand how difficult it is for some people to have the courage to exercise in public, especially at a gym filled with women like Dani. This woman may be going through health issues such as cancer and exercise has been prescribed to her. She may be an exhausted working mom taking an hour to re-energize herself before she heads home after a full day of work. She may be struggling with depression and anxiety. She could be an unappreciated caregiver of a spouse or parent with Alzheimers. I could think of a endless list of reasons why she’s there. The bottom line is SHE’S THERE TAKING CARE OF HERSELF. She doesn’t deserve, nor does anyone else, this bullying. 

Women like Dani are why I hated junior high gym class, really junior high in general!  Women like this are also why I dedicated my Fitness career to helping those NOT like Dani. This article made me think about a woman that I consoled years ago when I worked at the YMCA. She was in her late 40s, overweight, and struggling with severe depression along with other chronic conditions. She had contacted me about personal training. 

As I was talking to her in my office, she kept looking nervously around the fitness room behind us. I asked her if she was OK and she began to cry. She told me how afraid she was to exercise in front of these people who were so fit. I told her that because it was 3:30 on a weekday afternoon, they gym was occupied with mostly high school kids. She commented how fit they were, which I replied, “They’re 16/17 years old girls. They don’t have full time jobs yet, they haven’t been pregnant and given birth to a child, they haven’t gone through menopause, or struggled with health issues. Please don’t compare yourself to them or any other woman in the gym. You’re here for you.” She smiled and we went on to discuss days and times for her to come where she wouldn’t initially feel intimidated. She left my office with a hug and a smile.

I think about her often, especially when I meet with other women who may have the same feelings she had that day. I think about her when I see rude, obnoxious behavior in a gym. I think about her and all of the women and men like her when I read a story like this. This model, Dani doesn’t have compassion for others.  She and women like her either can’t empathize, or they cover their own insecurities by making fun of others. They’re the typical bully, the mean girls, the ones I still don’t have time for even today. Unfortunately, they’re everywhere. They’re at your upscale gym or at the local rec center. They’re at your kids soccer game or dance class or at the PTA meeting. 

Don’t let these mean girls and bullies win. Be body proud, take care of yourself, go for a jog, a bike ride, or take a yoga class. These people will smother in their own ugliness. Let your beauty, the real beauty, shine through.

How To Start 2016 Out Right

Here we are, another January and another chance to set goals for the new year.  As much as I and others talk about skipping resolutions because they just don’t work, I see so many posts on social media from friends and even former clients about their resolutions to eat healthy, exercise more, stress less, etc.  It seems we can’t get out of the mindset or the habit of making resolutions in January.

What if this year, we change that mindset or habit along with the idea that we have to achieve some level of perfection when it comes to eating right and exercising?  What if we start 2016 by throwing out the idea that we have to join a gym, or commit to some brutal exercise class or program that we don’t really like and we know we won’t be doing a year from now in 2017?

This year, let’s resolve to have balance in our life.  Let’s think of exercise in terms of movement.  Let’s think of “diet” in terms of fueling our body instead of depriving ourselves or giving in to emotional eating.  Let’s think of HEALTH.

Many of us have sedentary jobs, families at home, older parents to take care of, financial stresses, or a number of other commitments that will take priority over the $60 a month gym membership.  Instead of stressing ourselves over the fact that we are “donating” $60 a month because we can’t get to the gym every day, how about we take a walk every day?  It may be on our lunch break, it may be in the morning before everyone is awake and the day has started, it may be at the end of the day to relieve stress.  Is the weather bad where you live?  Find an indoor track, or create a walking path in your house.  Yes, walk in your house.  Put on headphones with your favorite music and walk for 10 minutes.  So what if the dog or the kids are making faces at you!  You’re moving and improving your health.

Do you spend at least 5 minutes before you go to bed checking your phone, email, or Facebook?  Shut off the electronics, and spend that 5 minutes stretching or doing yoga instead.  It will reduce stress, relax your mind and body, and help you to sleep better.  You’re moving and improving your health.

Are you an all day coffee or soda drinker?  Follow each cup of coffee or can of soda with a glass of water.  You may find that you start drinking just the water and cutting back on the soda.  You’re improving your health.

Will you be perfect at these changes?  Of course not, but you will start thinking differently.  Instead of not being aware of how much you haven’t moved, you will begin to think, “I haven’t gone for my walk today”.  That awareness is improvement.  Will something such as illness or work deadlines get you off track? You can count on it!  However, you will start your routine again as soon as you can and not feel defeated or give up. Will you have too much dessert or too much wine?  Probably, but it isn’t the end of the world or the end of your health goals.  Just get back on track.

A healthy lifestyle isn’t about perfection.  It is about making small changes, awareness, and letting go of ideals that never really worked. Start today by looking for opportunities to move.  Walk to your co-worker’s desk instead of emailing her.  March in place tonight while you are watching the news.  Drink one more glass of water than you did yesterday.  Start 2016 out right, but in a way that you don’t have to start all over again in 2017.

Silly Stress

This past weekend, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes played for the Big 10 Championship against Michigan State.  I won’t get into the fact that I am not a football fan, nor the reasons why, which date back to my days growing up in Texas where football is right up there with religion and players practically are seen as sitting at the right hand of God.

Here in Iowa, we don’t have professional sports and our college teams, especially the Hawkeyes, are placed on a very high pedestal.  This has always bothered me. Not just the culture of football, which again I won’t get into the fact of players charged with drug and rape offenses with no more than a slap on the wrist. The fact is, these players are kids. They are 18, 19, 20 year-olds who aren’t even at the peak of brain development. Yet, we hold them to the same standard that we do a 32 year old NFL player who is making millions of dollars a year.

Now to my subject of stress.  I admit I watched the game.  It was a very close and evenly matched game. The University of Iowa came into the championship game with a perfect record, following previous seasons that would have most likely cost the Athletic Director and the head coach (who happens to be the highest paid state employee, but again I won’t get into that) their jobs if this season wouldn’t have turned around.  Iowa lost in the last few seconds after several very determined attempts by Michigan State to score a touchdown.  When the game was over and the television cameras showed the tear-streaked faces of the Iowa players, my thought again was, “these are just kids”.  It took me back to the days when my now grown daughter played high school softball and the heartbreak and tears after a tough loss.  It broke my heart to see her cry.  It is a character builder, these sports.  They teach us that sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.  It hurts to lose, but when we lose, life goes on and we work for the next opportunity.

The day after the Big Ten Championship loss, there was an air of sadness in Iowa City.  People looked depressed, heartbroken. Many people I talked to mentioned the knots in their stomach, the stress, or how sad they felt when the Hawkeyes lost.  I understand the disappointment when our team loses, but we are letting a game, played by 18, 19, 20 year old college student athletes, affect our health and well-being?  I sure hope not!

I admit that I have lost sleep the past few weeks about things out of my control.  The bombings in Paris, the attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, the slaughter at a company holiday gathering in California, the knife attack in London, so many more that never made the news headlines.  I think about the husbands, wives, daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers who will never come home again.  I think about the hesitation that many feel about even going to the mall this holiday season, fearing someone with a gun and a grudge will be there to take their anger out on innocent people.

Although I feel empathy for the Iowa players after their difficult loss to Michigan State, it isn’t like the loss felt by the victims’ families after tragic events.  There will be another game.  As fans, we will continue to cheer on the team.  Football will be over and hopefully these players have prepared for their real life careers.  Life goes on and we work for the next opportunity.  There is no next opportunity for the victims of senseless violence, whether it is isolated gun violence or a terrorist attack.  That puts a knot in my stomach and saddens me.  That is a loss that cannot be recovered in the next season. Yes, life still goes on and we can’t let it affect our daily lives.  Although I think in a way, it still does. That is not “silly” stress.